East Tennessee Children’s Hospital doctor urges parents to protect children against the flu

FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 file photo, a woman receives a flu vaccine shot at a community fair in Brownsville, Texas. On Wednesday, June 21, 2017, U.S. health officials released new estimates showing the previous winter’s flu vaccine was ineffective in protecting older Americans against the illness, even though the vaccine was well-matched to the flu bugs going around. (Jason Hoekema/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s almost flu season in East Tennessee.

Dr. Katy Stordahl, an emergency room physician at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, says it is important for children to get vaccinated. Dr. Stordahl says on average 100 children die of complications from the flu every year. She says even healthy children can die from the flu.

Only the injectable vaccine is available this year, according to Dr. Stordayl. She says the latest data shows nasal spray vaccines, like the Flu Mist, offered less than 3 percent protection against the most recent strains of influenza circulating. By comparison, kids who got the injectable vaccine received 63 percent protection against any circulating strand.

During the 2017-2018 flu season, Dr. Stordahl says the flu vaccine is expected to be more effective. She says the vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses and will protect against three or four different strains of the flu this year.

While children may have mild systemic symptoms, such as nausea, lethargy, headache, muscle aches and chills, Dr. Stordahl says children cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Also, Dr. Stordahl says if you get vaccinated, but still get the flu, your side effects will be milder and the duration of the illness shorter than if you had not been vaccinated.

Dr. Stordahl says it is important to get the flu vaccine every year as soon as they are available. She says it takes two weeks for the vaccine to be effective.

She says everyone over six months of age should get the vaccine. Vaccinated adults can protect babies who can’t be vaccinated.

Flu viruses are constantly changing and the different viruses can circulate and cause illness each season, according to Dr. Stordahl. She says flu vaccines are made each year to protect against the flu viruses that research indications will be most common and will provide some protection against any strain.

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